Like the rest of the world, the healthcare sector was already en route to a digital transformation before COVID-19. But while providers were once changing inch by inch, hesitant to embrace new technologies, the pandemic changed everything. As in-person appointments came to a screeching halt, practices around the world accelerated straight into a newly remote world.
There’s no time to look back. For healthcare professionals outside of the hospital setting, remote work is the new normal.
In the short term, remote work is key to increasing safety and reducing the strain on the healthcare system. In the long term, embracing remote work can be key to increasing productivity and providing more efficient care.
The future of the medical field is here. Here are four steps you’ll want to take for a smooth transition into the remote environment.
Make Telehealth Your Priority
At the start of the pandemic, much of the world still regarded telehealth as a temporary fix to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Now, 76% of patients are likely to use telehealth going forward — up from just 11% in 2019. Telehealth is here to stay.
Healthcare professionals need to treat remote patient care as a permanent part of their services. Telehealth needs to be as high-quality as in-person care. Instead of just offering virtual checkups and prescription refills, consider adopting exciting innovations in healthcare, such as:
- Wearable remote patient monitoring devices
- Mobile health apps
- Online payment technology
- Store-and-forward technology
In the year since the pandemic started, it’s become clear that these digital tools are not passing fads. Many patients and providers alike are realizing that some processes don’t have to occur in-person at all.
Telehealth tools are worthy investments that can help your team offer great care, even when you or your patients can’t (or don’t want to) meet in the office.
Embrace Telework Technologies
When diving into a remote work setting, communication solutions are critical. Your team needs tools that make it easy for patients to reach you, for you to reach patients, and for your staff to reach each other.
Many healthcare practices have adopted telework technology to combat COVID-19 and operate remotely. If you haven’t already, now is the time to implement technologies like:
- Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype, which offer a face-to-face solution for treating patients and meeting with your team.
- Business phone apps like RingCentral and Grasshopper, which allow administrators to answer calls from anywhere.
- Chat platforms like Slack and Discord, which allow your team to message each other efficiently.
- Project management tools like Asana and Trello, which help your team members stay on the same page about what needs to be accomplished.
Even long after the pandemic, these tools can continue helping your practice succeed when working as a remote or semi-remote team. With remote nursing jobs becoming more widely available, offering telework options may even be the best path to bringing quality RNs onto your team.
Be Strategic About Health Tech Investments
There are two sides to every coin. While healthcare technology advancements made in the face of COVID-19 have helped practices reduce costs, it’s crucial to acknowledge the effect on patients. Health tech has led to annual cost increases of up to 50%.
In the U.S., healthcare costs are already high. Many new technologies — including some telehealth innovations — are only making healthcare more unaffordable, especially for patients without insurance. And even with insurance, it’s also important to know that telemedicine isn’t always fully covered.
Offering the best quality care as a remote team isn’t always about offering the hottest new gear. Prioritize health tech investments that make healthcare more accessible and don’t unnecessarily drive up costs. To offer the best remote care experience, you need to be mindful of the impact of the services you choose to offer in-person versus online.
At the same time, your team should be mindful of the return on investment (ROI) of the telemedicine tools you do invest in. Prioritize tech that offers a win-win solution for your practice and your patients.
Clarify Time-Off Policies
Healthcare workers are in high demand these days. Even when working remotely, your team members may be working longer hours than before the pandemic. All the while, COVID-19 still presents a risk in our day-to-day lives, which means your staff members may need to take long periods of time off if they or a family member catches the disease.
In this time, administrators must take care to keep guidelines surrounding working hours, time off, and sick leave up-to-date. Clarify details like:
- What counts as overtime and how much overtime compensation workers earn.
- How many paid sick days employees receive.
- If workers get paid during bereavement leaves and when caring for sick dependents.
- What your PTO approval process looks like.
- What holidays your staff can get time off or holiday pay on.
- Whether or not ill and recovering staff members can perform duties remotely.
Though COVID-19 sick leave guidelines from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act are no longer in effect, keep in mind that you can still get tax credits for offering the previously required benefits through March 31, 2021.
Don’t Forget About Compliance
In the rush to go remote during the pandemic, it’s been easy to forget about HIPAA compliance. However, going digital makes protecting patient data even more important
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has indeed relaxed the enforcement of HIPAA rules during the pandemic. When using video conferencing tools, you’re protected as long as you use approved options like Zoom for Healthcare and Skype for Business. But keep in mind that these protections will end post-COVID, while telehealth won’t.
Plus, hackers won’t give healthcare practices a break like the government will.
Embrace the remote world of healthcare by being proactive about your cybersecurity. Take precautions like:
- Using multi-factor authentication on all digital accounts.
- Training your staff on digital HIPAA compliance and best cybersecurity practices.
- Using VPNs to keep all online activity as safe as possible.
Transition to Remote Work With Ease
The medical world has rapidly entered a new era of digital transformation. Once hesitant to embrace remote work, healthcare practices now need to adapt to the virtual setting and recognize that telehealth is here to stay.
You can start strengthening your remote care by embracing the right technologies while staying on top of your policies and compliance today.
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